Vaccines encouraged by public health as Beltrami County averages more than 350 active COVID cases

On a daily basis, Beltrami County Public Health is tracking between 350 and 400 coronavirus cases. With the numbers being that high, officials are continuing to encourage vaccinations.

Registered nurse Deb Ferris, right, walks Dr. Jill Olson, her husband Brad and their son, Braden, 9, through the vaccination process recently at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

BEMIDJI -- A push for people to get vaccinated remains ongoing for Beltrami County Public Health, as the department is now tracking more than 350 active coronavirus cases on average.

According to Public Health Director Megan Heuer, the county is tracking 363 active cases and has been averaging between 350 and 400 cases daily for the past few weeks. Since the pandemic reached the county in March 2020, there have been a total of 7,251 recorded cases.

"Usually, we see the number of active cases increase as the week goes on because there's less testing availability over the weekend," Heuer said. "We then see those numbers climb."

The current number of active cases is a major contrast from those in the summer months. In early July, the county had a recorded total of just over 4,000 cases and was averaging about 10 cases per day.

Today, Heuer said on average, the cases the county is seeing has been typically in the 20-50 age range. While that age group represents the majority of cases, though, Heuer said there have been more children getting the virus, and a few pediatric admissions have occurred at the hospital.


There are currently 12 hospitalized in the county, with nine being Beltrami County residents.

"We're looking at a harm reduction strategy at this point," Heuer said. "If not everybody is wearing masks and doing those other things, at a very minimum, we want people, if they're not feeling well, to stay away from family events and public places. And that's with anything, COVID, influenza, or any similar illness."

Heuer also said the number of deaths from COVID in the county has reached 85, up from 65 in mid-August. Across Minnesota as a whole, there have been 8,882 deaths and 42,328 hospitalizations.

RELATED: New weekend cases overwhelm Minnesota health staff; few ICU beds available

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, since the pandemic started, 826,404 cases of COVID have been recorded, with 794,269 out of isolation. Regionally, Beltrami County has the third-highest total case count for northern Minnesota.

Beltrami is behind only St. Louis County with 25,654 and Clay County with 10,966. Those counties are home to population centers Duluth and Moorhead. Trailing Beltrami is neighboring Itasca County, with 6,732.

Area Native American tribal governments have also released case counts, with numbers above 1,000. In the Red Lake Nation, there have been a total of 1,120 cases, with 153 active. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, meanwhile, has 39 active cases and had a total of 1,268.


Sanford Health began scheduling and administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 on Thursday, Nov. 4. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

Vaccine efforts

With the numbers remaining high, vaccinations continue to be touted by health departments and providers. Heuer said this applies to both COVID and the flu.

"We're definitely encouraging flu vaccines along with the COVID vaccine and boosters," Heuer said. "We're also acknowledging there's a lot of other illnesses that look like those things, so we don't want people to ignore those."

Heuer said both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have approved people to interchange their vaccines and their booster doses.

"If someone originally got Pfizer, they can get any of the other two COVID vaccines," Heuer said. "Just like with most vaccines, the protection wanes over time. The same way we have to get an annual flu vaccine, so this is not uncommon for vaccines. Some last longer, as a tetanus shot can last 10 years, while a flu shot lasts nine months. It's a wide range."

In Beltrami County, MDH reports that 25,304 residents have received one vaccine dose while 23,525 have been fully vaccinated. At the state level, 3.48 million have received one dose, while 3.32 million Minnesotans are fully vaccinated.

"As kids have become eligible, we've also been seeing parents get it for themselves, too," Heuer said. "So, it's been turning into more of a whole family thing. We've done 5- to 11-year-olds here at the county and Sanford is up and running with their vaccines for children ."


Dr. Johnna Nynas hugs her daughter, Stella, 6, after her recent COVID-19 vaccination at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

This week, Sanford Health is holding two vaccine clinics from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, and Thursday, Nov. 11. Those seeking a vaccine or a booster can schedule an appointment online at My Sanford Chart or by calling (877) 701-0779 .

In Red Lake, the tribal government has announced special hours in honor of Veterans Day for its COVID services. At the Red Lake Hospital, COVID testing will be done from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the vaccine clinic and walk-in clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Red Lake Hospital is located at 24760 Hospital Road in Red Lake.

When getting a vaccine, Heuer said it's possible to get a flu shot on the same day.

"When getting vaccines on the same day, some may see a higher immune response," she said. "Some more side effects may happen, but typically, it's very short-lived, like 24 hours."

For those seeking a COVID test, Heuer also said the MDH is now running a rapid testing site from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Bemidji Armory, 1430 23rd St. NW.

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